There are some positive developments for our men of a certain age this week—following up on the triumphs of last week—but they come after serious tribulations. And though some of those tribulations struck me as a little off-the-shelf, “Can’t Let That Slide” once again showed off the ability of the the MOACA creative team to breathe real life into stock confrontations.
Oddly, the one non-stock storyline in this episode is the one that seems the most removed from real life, at least initially. Owen notes the disconnect between the gushing customer comment cards and the nastier customer comments on the internet, and assumes that the salesmen have been persuading their customers to say nice things in person. (I, on the other hand, assumed that the internet comments were the work of trolls or saboteurs from Scarpulla, but I was wrong.) So Owen installs hidden cameras in the cars to clandestinely check out some test drives, and finds that his salesmen have been behaving outrageously when they’re with customers: reading newspapers, running errands, selling their own CDs, picking their feet, and openly mocking one driver’s weight by referring to the map-light as “a french-fry finder.” The montage of bad behavior is funny, but a little exaggerated for this kind of show. Still, the spycam business does reveal something even more significant: that Owen Sr.’s longtime employee/friend/advisor Bruce has been taking kickbacks from distributors. This is rough news for the Thoreaus, but there’s a brightside: Bruce’s off-the-books money-management explains some of the dealership’s recent economic woes.
When Owen talks to Joe about having to fire Bruce for profiting as his expense—“Can’t let that slide”—it lights a fire under Joe, who’s in a similar situation. The restauranteur that Joe has been taking bets from points him a potential new client, who works in a nearby electronics store. Joe’s a little shaken by the size of the guy’s bet—$5,000 on a college basketball game—but he takes the action, and comes up a winner. Only when Joe comes back by the store to collect, the client has all kind of excuses, and offers merchandise rather than cash. (Apparently, he’s the Bruce of his particular establishment.) Meanwhile, Joe’s anxiety over collecting the money means he misses a candy shipment that he promised Carlos he’d be there for, and subsequently nearly $1200 worth of chocolate and suckers melt by the loading dock. So now Joe needs that five grand, but when he goes back and confronts the electronics guy, the deadbeat hems and haws and admits that he doesn’t have it. It’s a feeling that Joe knows well: shame and embarrassment, with an undercurrent of unfocused anger.
The idea of Joe getting out of the bookie business because he sees himself in a client is a fairly pat one, but the scene itself is played so beautifully, from the client’s fumbling to Joe’s gradual realization that he doesn’t have it in him to play the tough guy with this sap—not when he could just as easily say “forget it.” (After all, it’s not like it really costs Joe anything to forgive the debt.)
Similarly, Terry’s storyline this week looks like it’s headed deep down into cliché, before it pulls up at the end. Now back with Erin, Terry seems in danger of smothering the poor woman. He takes her hiking, and to the diner with the guys—right in front of Laura The Waitress, which probably isn’t the best idea. (“Hey, we never defined things,” Terry shrugs.) He brings a toothbrush and a suit to Erin’s apartment so he can stay over. He feeds her cat, and makes dinner plans for her to celebrate a teaching award. Erin goes along with Terry, though she seems a little reluctant. And when they get stuck in traffic on the way to dinner—and when Terry refuses to abort his romantic plans so that Erin can go to the bathroom—it seems he may have pushed her too far. I was bracing myself for her to drop Terry again, especially after he admits that he doesn’t want to take it slow, and suggests they move in together. Instead, she keeps on going along, perhaps because she can sense that Terry’s over-eagerness is partly her fault. He’s pegged most of his hopes for the future on Erin, and he really, really, really doesn’t want to lose her again.
So for the second week in a row, Men On A Certain Age closes on an up note. (Even Manfro’s feeling better, especially now that his strip… I mean, “dancer,” is back in the picture.) Terry’s back on track with his relationship; Owen’s getting his business in order; Joe’s putting gambling—and possibly Michelle as well—in his rear-view mirror. To quote Owen, as “Can’t Let That Slide” ends, there’s “an uptick in professionalism, and a downtick in bullshit.”
- “I’m Joe… orge.”
- My new password: “Funkyman123”
- Melissa, after Owen says he’s removing the spycams: “You’re canceling my favorite show?”
- Manfro, on the effects of chemo: “I thought my head was bad bald until I saw my ass. Turns out all that hair was there for a reason.”
- Joe complains that Manfro’s “indoor hydrant” contraption for his dog stinks. “That was me,” Manfro quips. “I was tryin’ it out”
- Owen and Joe aren’t too keen on Terry bringing Erin to the diner, because they think it means they can’t speak freely about their man-problems, even though Terry insists that they can. “So if I got an issue with my balls…,” Joe begins. “Looking forward to it,” Terry says.
- “Takin’ a nap? Smokin’ a doob?”
- I’m not sure I can properly explain why, but one of the reasons I love Men Of A Certain Age is moments like the one where Terry tells Erin that a locksmith is coming and says that he “called like four different guys.” It’s the detail about how many people he called that adds verisimilitude. It’s a subtle way of expressing how hard he’s trying to make things right, while also indicating that he shares her annoyance with the whole situation.